Thursday, May 23, 2013

GOD IS GOOD

I do a lot of my thinking in the morning as I lie in bed.  I usually wake up gradually, lying on my back, with Uni lying at my right side, her right arm and leg wrapped around me, her head on my shoulder, as she gently snores.  I hear the coffee maker in the kitchen as it kicks on with a gurgle, then continues gurgling in a crescendo until it reaches its noisy climax.  A few minutes later the timed light in the kitchen comes on.  I hug Uni closer and one or both of us mutters, "Love ya."  Then I struggle out of bed to fetch our coffee.  We've been going through this routine for years.  It just doesn't get any better than this.  God is hgood1

As we look back over our lives of over 75 years and our nearly 60 years together, we marvel at how good our lives have been.  Yes, we've had a few bad experiences:  illness, most simply due to our age; some conflicts with people that were heart breaking, and the deaths of loved ones -- we each lost a sister just this year.  But all in all we've had it pretty good.  We've made it past the biblical 70 years and are now on our "extended warranty" (see also Psalm 90:10).

It would be easy to claim credit for all the good things in our lives.  We could claim it's all due to our clean living, diet and exercise, a positive mental attitude, a close spiritual walk with the Lord, etc., etc.  I suppose many in similar situations would do so.

But that would be a lie.  I've violated most of the rules at one time or another -- actually quite frequently.

And there are those who could make the same claims, whose lives have been total disasters.

There are many who didn't wake up this morning in pleasant circumstances like ours.  This past Sunday and Monday tornadoes struck just to the south and east of us.  Monday's monster twister that struck the city of Moore, OK is now claimed to be the costliest ever in terms of material damage.  Besides taking 24 lives it is estimated to have done two and a half billion dollars in damage.  That's incomprehensible.  It cut a swath two miles wide by 17 miles long.  We are constantly barraged with TV images that are still difficult to wrap our minds around.

And the destruction was indiscriminate.  The tornadoes did not distinguish between good and bad people between clean livers and dirty livers, between those who walk with the Lord and those who spurn Him.

So how can I say that God is good?  Should I revise that to "God is good to me"?  Should I add the qualifier "at least presently"?

We often ask, "Why do bad things happen to good people?  We also ask, "Why do good things happen to bad people?"  I suppose though that we really wonder why good and bad things seem to happen to good and bad people indiscriminately.

And then, I suppose our question might be, "Is God really good?"  Would I say He's good if I woke up in different circumstances?

I don't know what I'd say.  I do know that I can thank Him for all He's given me.

And I do know that in all the talk that's been going on, all the interviews conducted by TV reporters, we don't hear people question or blaming God.  Could it be that those who have suffered can somehow see God's goodness in and through all this?  It would seem so.

 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Another view on LGBT rights & the church

The following is a guest post by Sherry:

Maybe I shouldn't have titled this "another view" so much as an expansion on Bill's last two posts and an answer to some of the comments on the first.  I should also add that this is for Christians who believe the Bible is the inspired word of God.  Non-Christians don't base their views about LGBT rights on the Bible and Christians with a more liberal theology don't interpret the Biblical passages on homosexuality the same way.

After reading Bill's last three posts and the comments, I have been thinking about God's ideal for marriage (sexual purity with no divorce) vs. the laws He gave regulating divorce.  These laws did not mean God had decided "oh they're going to do it anyway so I guess it's okay" but that God knew we were fallen and He wanted the rights of the societal lesser (ie, women in this case) to be protected. (See Deut. 24:1-4; Mt. 5:31, 32; 19:1-12; Mk. 10:2-12).  I think this is an example of how those who believe in the inspiration of all the Bible should view LGBT rights.

Laws protecting the rights of others do not mean all of their sins are okay, just that others shouldn't be able to take advantage of them. There have been two recent instances in the news that show just how much is denied to them solely becuz they cannot get married; it's CRUEL and it certainly isn't Christian or Godly or Christ-like or following the Golden Rule (given in at least 22 religions that I know of) to treat people like that strictly becuz of their sexual orientation.

My main thought though is that if we're going to deny America's civil rights AND basic human rights to sinners, then we need to deny them to ALL sinners. 
Which is everyone according to the Bible. 
Including me. 
Including all the religious folks out there screaming about homosexuality. 

But no one is proposing that; they just want to deny these rights to a particular group.  This time because of their sin.  Last time because of the color of their skin.  You see, the church has a long tradition of turning a blind eye to the sins committed by those within and focusing on the sins of those without.  Then once that sin is as prevelant within the church as outside (for instance divorce as mentioned in my previous comment) they shut up.

Jesus and Paul never did that.  They never lambasted non-believers about their sin.  Yes, on occasion they mentioned the sins of their unbelieving audience but with kindness and only to point out their need for salvation (see the story of the woman at the well - John 4:4-42).  Jesus and Paul talked the most and the harshest about sin to religious people - either saying that their hypocricy kept others from God or reminding them what God had saved them from.  Jesus made it clear in word and deed that He came to save those who are lost.  And He paid a mighty high price for it.

I thank God that He is willing to forgive my sin.
And I pray that His people will start looking at sinners as God does:
    as people in need of love and grace,
    as people He was willing to DIE for,
    as people who He LOVES. 
If we're all sinners as the Bible says, if He loved us all so much He would die for us as the Bible says, then maybe I should treat someone who practices a different sin than I do with that same love and compassion as the Bible says instead of sinning myself by showing hate toward another.   If instead we choose hate, then perhaps we need to reread the new testament.  First John chapter 4 is a pretty good place to start: "Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen." (I John 4:20).  And of course there's the story of the good samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)

And make no mistake about it, denying other human beings their rights as humans and as citizens, let alone as bearers of the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28) is not love. 
It's not treating your neighbor as yourself. 
It's not following the Golden Rule. 
It's hate.  If you're going to practice, acknowledge it.
And leave the name of my loving God out of it.

This isn't my first post here and some of what I've talked about relates to some of what I talked about in the previous post.  You see, I believe if we loved people as much as God does, we wouldn't marginalize whole groups (in that post it was single moms & the poor, in this post (and the two posts this refers to), it's the LGBT community) but would bring them into our churches, our homes and our hearts.  And until we love them that way, we are worrying about the speck in our neighbor's eye while ignoring the 2x4 in our own eye (Matthew 7:3).

Think that about covers that!  Unlike Bill, I don't normally open up the scriptures to others -- apparently about once a year and only on his blog LOL.  Thanks for the forum.


Now, to the person who accused Bill of teetering of the edge of apostasy, I have to say this:
Ever since I can remember, Bill has spent hours in the word on a daily basis, whether he was teaching or not. Since he moved up here, I’ve observed a real humble spirit towards learning what God wants him to learn, both from God's word and other sources (he probably had this spirit before, but now he's here for me to see it). While I know there is always the possiblity he could misunderstand something in the scriptures, I feel that it would be difficult due to the amount of time he spends studying and praying. The fact that he is willing to (1) apologize for his earlier legalism and/or judgmentalism and (2) fine-tune or even change his thoughts about subjects makes me believe God is answering him, not that he's falling into apostasy. 

God is so incredibly liberal with His grace and what I see in Bill's theological progression is a move toward a more liberal grace as well. This is totally in keeping with Scripture.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

WHOM AM I PERSUADING?

Galatians 1:10:  "For am I persuading people?  Or God?  Or am I seeking to please people?  If I were still pleasing people, I would not be Christ's bondslave!"

Paul asks 3 questions in Galatians 1:10 (at least as I have punctuated it).  The answer to the first is obviously yes, as we can see in his remarks to the Corinthians and the references in Acts.  Though he uses many other words (reason, dialogue, etc.), it seems clear that his goal was to persuade.

2 Corinthians 5:11:  "Since then we know the fear of the Lord, we persuade people, but we are open before God, and I hope also to be open in your consciences."

Acts 18:4:  "And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and he was persuading both Jews and Greeks."

Acts 19:8:  "And entering into the synagogue he was speaking boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading the things concerning the Kingdom of God."

Acts 26:28:  ”And Agrippa said to Paul, 'In a little bit you're persuading me to be a Christian.'"

Acts 28:23:  " ... he expounded to them, solemnly testifying to them the Kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from the Law of Moses and the prophets from morning until evening."

Of what was Paul trying to persuade people?  I believe Agrippa understood.  He was persuading them to become Christians, to become believers in and followers of Jesus Christ and citizens of the Kingdom of God.

His methods of persuasion may have differed, as we read in the Book of Acts and in his epistles.  When he dealt with Jews -- those who had the Bible -- he used the Bible to persuade; when he dealt with gentiles -- those who did not have the Bible -- he used whatever means and arguments were available, natural revelation, or even their own religious beliefs.  Though he denied  trying to "please men" he did all that he could to remove barriers.  He "became all things to all that he might save some" (1 Corinthians 9:21).

Shouldn't this be our goal?  Shouldn't we also, by our words and actions be doing all that we can to persuade people to come to Christ?  I pray that this may always be my goal in all conversation, even though it may not be verbal.  And in this blog I pray that though it may not always be the main goal of a particular post it may lie beneath the surface in all that I write.  And I especially pray that nothing I say would persuade others otherwise.  If so, I hope my readers will correct me.

I'm afraid and saddened however, that some Christians and many preachers do not have this as their goal, but see themselves less as trying to be like Paul and his great example Jesus and more as emulating the prophets of the Old Covenant, ranting against the sins of the world.

They forget (or never realized) that the prophets' burden was to bring God's Old Testament people in line, while the New Testament witness is to bring people to faith in Christ.

And I find myself being criticized for not being like them, for allegedly "calling evil good and vice versa."  I don't believe I have done any such thing.

While I hope that I won't hesitate to repent and apologize when I err (which I do frequently) and am corrected, I make no apologies for not conforming to others' criteria.  I pray that in my case the answer to Paul's second question will be no, and to the third will also be no.